Darrell Hammond was for years the go-to impressionist for “Saturday Night Live.” And his specialty was spot-on performances of presidents.
So when Donald Trump was going up against Hillary Clinton for president last year, and with the election coinciding with season 42 of “SNL,” everyone thought Hammond, a former cast member, would be the guy to play Trump.
But in a shocking twist, “SNL” head Lorne Michaels brought in Alec Baldwin to play candidate Trump.
Hammond was suddenly forgotten, as Baldwin’s explosive impersonation of Trump wowed audiences and led to him earlier this month winning an Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series.
But it turns out Hammond didn’t take losing the gig well.
In a revealing profile in The Washington Post published Wednesday, Hammond breaks his silence on how his Trump impersonation was passed over going into one of the most insane elections in modern times.
The comic had been a fixture on “SNL” since 1995, doing memorable impressions of not just Trump but Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Sean Connery. He was also the show’s announcer after its legendary voice, Don Pardo, died in 2014. So it came as a shock to Hammond to learn last September that he wasn’t going to play Trump in season 42. And rather than give Hammond the news himself, Michaels had a producer, Steve Higgins, do it.
“I just started crying,” Hammond told the paper. “In front of everyone. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock, and I stayed in shock for a long time. Everything wiped out. The brand, me, what I do. Corporate appearances canceled. It was a hell of a shock, and all of it was apparent to me in one breath. That ends me.”
Hammond tried to distance himself from one of his most iconic impressions. He stopped doing it in his stand-up appearances. He and his girlfriend watched “Game of Thrones” on election night. His doctors prescribed him a beta blocker to calm his nerves and the drug Antabuse to keep him from drinking, according to The Post.
“I couldn’t get on an elevator, couldn’t walk through a lobby, couldn’t turn on a television, couldn’t walk down Broadway, couldn’t go to my favorite diner, couldn’t go anywhere,” Hammond said. “People would literally pull up in their cars on the way to Lincoln Tunnel to say: ‘What the hell happened? What in the world? Are you OK?’ Like, ‘Why would you give that job up?'”
Michaels told The Post that the reason for the change was that he “needed another force, on an acting level, to have the power that Trump was embodying then.”
“The Darrell Trump … it wasn’t the Trump that had gotten darker,” he said. “It was the Trump from ‘The Apprentice.'”
Hammond now spends little time in New York City – when The Post caught up with him, he was doing a 45-minute set for $50,000 at a party held by Clinton fundraisers in Utah – though he recently came back to appear in Michael Moore’s Broadway show, “The Terms of My Surrender.” Yes, he does a little Trump while on stage.
Hammond said he didn’t resent Baldwin at all. Baldwin, who addresses his Trump impersonation less and less while doing press these days, did send an email to The Post about the Hammond situation.
“I love and admire Darrell and I’m sorry that he is unhappy about how it all transpired,” Baldwin wrote. “PS … He can have the thing back whenever he likes, as far as I’m concerned.”
Here’s Hammond as Trump in a 2004 skit that also features the real Trump: